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New historic site marks atrocity at Sand Creek in Colo.

Published April 29, 2007


SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, Colo. - More than 142 years after a band of state militia volunteers massacred 150 sleeping Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians in a misdirected act of vengeance, a memorial to the tragic event was officially dedicated Saturday.

The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic site, 160 miles southeast of Denver on Big Sandy Creek in Kiowa County, pays tribute to those killed in the attack on Nov. 29, 1864.

Seeking revenge for the killings of several settlers by Indians, 700 militia members slaughtered nearly everyone in the village. Most were women or children.

Descendants of some of the victims were among several hundred people at Saturday's dedication on the rolling hills. A mock village of a dozen tepees was set up in a grove of cottonwood trees along the creek that historians believe marks the site of the killings.

After a prayer and a blessing for the troops in Iraq, members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes chanted and played drums.

"It's a site of shame, but it's finally being memorialized properly, " said David Halaas, a former state historian.

Tribe descendants say they can still hear the children cry when they visit the site.

"If there were any savages that day, it was not the Indian people, " said former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe.

Campbell, who sponsored the legislation making the spot a national historic site, said he slept beside the creek Friday night "to get a picture" of what the people saw before the attack.

"I think it is the greatest testimony of the strength of a nation - that you are big enough and strong enough to acknowledge the cruelties and injuries of the past, " said Patricia Limerick, chairwoman of the University of Colorado's Center of the American West and author of Legacy of Conquest.

The attack was recognized almost immediately as criminal. Congress condemned it, and President Abraham Lincoln fired territorial Gov. John Evans.

[Last modified April 29, 2007, 01:18:24]

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